Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Glee: "Rumours"

If Glee has no other significant contribution to our collective society and culture, it's that it introduces new music to audiences that may never have given it a chance. Sure, it will always do significantly more pop hits than anything else, songs that it's young audience will definitely be familiar with and sing along to. But every once in a while, they'll throw in a lesser-known Broadway standard, or an older classic that doesn't get enough attention nowadays. But tonight's episode did something completely unexpected: it built an entire episode around a single album, and that album wasn't the latest Katy Perry (which is better than it gets credit for, by the way) or Britney Spears, but rather Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Sure, it's probably not a coincidence that Fleetwood frontwoman Stevie Nicks is just about to release a new solo album, but it's still gutsy to do a whole episode of music that some members of the audience have probably never heard before.

Taking it's title seriously, the episode involves a head-spinning amount of rumors surrounding various members of the New Directions as a result of Sue's decision to restart the school paper in her continuing efforts to end Will (seriously, she's the new Wile E. Coyote). Quinn and Kurt may be cheating with Sam, though it turns out the latter is actually living in a hotel because his family is homeless now. The Rachel-Finn-Quinn triangle becomes more dramatic as a result of cheating allegations as well. Brittany outs Santana on her web show, resulting in increased drama between the two of them (and leaving poor Artie single again). April Rhodes (Kristen Chenoweth) returns after the debacle of her all-white production of The Wiz, and Will agrees to work with her on a show about her life. This tempts Will to leave the New Directions to go with April to Broadway. And Will's ex-wife Terri is just kind of there for a few scenes.

The decision to make Sam homeless is interesting in its own right, and also a bit troubling. So far, Sam as a character has had little depth beyond being "trouty-mouthed," blonde, dating Quinn for a spell, and having a killer Matthew McConhaughey impression (not as good as, say, Matt Damon's, but still). For the first time, though, we get to see Sam as a human being, and this little bit of backstory does go a long way in changing our perception of him. The problem is that this is Glee, and there's a very good chance that Ryan Murphy and Co. will get bored with it fast and/or distracted and we'll never hear about it again (see: Mercedes' body-image problems, Rachel's dads, Puck's pool-cleaning job, etc.). I'm sure the purpose of this was to provide an example of why spreading rumors is bad, but I'm worried that that's all it's going to be used for. Here's hoping that this one will last at least for the rest of the season.

Overall, though, this episode returned to the series strengths by focusing mostly on the kids instead of the adults. Sue's still in a spiral of unfunny, but her screentime was limited, as was Terri's (who shouldn't still be in this show, but whatever). Unfortunately, this meant that there wasn't much April either, which is a shame since television in general needs more Chenoweth (RIP Pushing Daisies). But this did mean a couple of great scenes for Rachel, Finn, Sam, and Quinn (which I'm sure Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Chord Overstreet, and Dianna Agron, respectively, have already included in their Emmy consideration packages). Hell, even Will actually got to do something more than smile with pride/canoodle with women, with a terrific (though short) reminder than Matthew Morrison has serious pipes and actually can act when he's given good material.

Speaking of, his duet with April on "Dreams" in the beginning was one of the show's highlights (fun fact: "Dreams" is Fleetwood Mac's only US #1 single). In fact, all of the performances were aces this time around, and I'm not even that big of a fan of Fleetwood Mac ("Landslide," which the show did a few episodes back, is one of my favorites). Artie's "Never Going Back Again" was touching and featured an acoustic guitar platoon, while Santana's heartfelt "Songbird" was even better than her "Landslide;" maybe she should only communicate through Brittany with Fleetwood Mac songs. Finn and Quinn's chilly "I Don't Want to Know" was biting and surprisingly well-acted, and the closing number "Don't Stop" worked well as the emotional climax. However, and I am biased, I really enjoyed Rachel's "Go Your Own Way," namely because that song, in my opinion, is one of the greatest songs ever written (and I'm open for arguments, as long as they're civil).

This was a strong episode of Glee, and the show needs more like this to finish out the season. I would be interested to see the show do more one-album-only episodes, especially if they aim to introduce new music to a broader audience.

- There were several little self-referential gags this week. I particularly liked the various names for different relationships ("Pieces" being my favorite, for Puck and Lauren) and the reference to Quinn's violent mood swings this season, which you can see in this graph.

- Kurt didn't have much to do this week, but his one big scene with Rachel was delightfully bitchy ("God, I've missed your insanity.")

- Suggestion for a future classic-rock-album episode: Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run. My personal favorite album of all time, and definitely worth bringing back into the mainstream. What would you like to see?

- So when are Nationals, exactly? I watch the episodes on Hulu, so I don't get any "next week on Glee!" sort of thing.

- Jane Lynch made a more convincing David Bowie than she did Ann Coulter.

- So it turns out that Brittany's cat, Lord Tubbington, enjoys fondue, is on the Atkins diet, and has a smoking habit. Because of course he does.

- Wit 'n' Wisdom of Sue Sylvester: "Who's wants more placentas?"

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